A community battles back: Vail rallies around rebuilding what terrorists destroyed in 1998 fire
What happened to the Vail arsonists?
• William C. Rodgers was arrested in Prescott, Arizona, as part of the federal Operation Backfire investigation. In addition to the Vail Mountain fires, he was charged with one count of arson for a June 1998 fire set by the Earth Liberation Front at the National Wildlife Research Center in Olympia, Washington. He was found dead in his jail cell on Dec. 21, 2005. According to police, Rodgers died by suicide.
• Chelsea D. Gerlach also was arrested in Operation Backfire. On Dec. 15, 2006, she pleaded guilty to $20 million worth of arsons between 1996 and 2001, including the Vail Mountain arson. She had previously pleaded guilty to 18 counts of arson in other attacks. She said she has since realized the firebombings did more harm than good.
• Stanislas Meyerhoff was also arrested in Operation Backfire and pleaded guilty to $40 million worth of arsons between 1996 and 2001, including the Vail arson with Gerlach. Meyerhoff has renounced the Earth Liberation Front, pleaded guilty to 54 counts and was sentenced in May 2007 to 13 years in prison.
• Rebecca Rubin surrendered to FBI agents at the U.S.-Canada border in Blaine, Washington, on Nov. 29, 2012, driven to the meeting by her mother. Eleven months later, she pleaded guilty to arson and conspiracy charges. She refused to turn over the names of other people who were involved in the actions. Rubin was sentenced to five years in prison and 200 hours of community service. She was released from prison in April 2016.
• Kevin Tubbs was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy, arson and destruction of an energy facility. He was released on July 26, 2013. His sentence included an order to pay $10,560,429 in restitution. Tubbs was involved in nine fires. He later apologized, saying he was “disgusted, sickened, saddened and totally ashamed that I played any part in any of the incidents.”
• Jacob Ferguson wore a recording device into meetings of The Family around the United States, gathering information that would be used against his friends in court. He was granted immunity in the eco-terrorism cases but later spent five years in prison for selling heroin.
• Josephine Sunshine Overaker remains at large. The FBI says she may have fled to Europe, possibly Spain, and is offering a reward for information about her. She remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. The FBI describes Overaker as 5-foot-3, 130 pounds with brown hair and eyes. She has several distinctive tattoos, including a large bird across her back. Her aliases included Lisa Rachelle Quintana, Maria Rachelle Quintana, “Osha,” “Jo,” “China,” “Josie” and “Mo.”
Tourism and outdoor recreation employ a lot of people, but those workers’ wages are below county and regional averages.